Much of the trade gossip swirling around the maladroit Milwaukee Brewers has concerned righty starter Zack Greinke, understandably. With the ace pitcher steadily creeping toward free agency at the end of the season and no sign of a long-term extension with the Crew, the national media is all over the potential destinations for Greinke and the possible compensation to the Brewers for his loss. Brewers fans can only hope the team keeps Greinke or gets a good deal in return for him.
Nevertheless, the Brewers have other players who could be moved prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. The Brewers, at 34-41 and in 4th place in the NL Central, are stuck in a netherworld of confusion, uncertainty and regret. They are a good two-week run from getting back into the NL Central and Wildcard races, yet they seem destined to repeat the same forward-and-backward routine they’ve performed all season. They’ve managed not to lose five straight all season, yet they also haven’t won five straight.
This conundrum has resulted in a tortuous carousel of will-they-or-won’t-they that has many fans wishing they’d either tank completely or break the malaise and start playing some solid baseball for a change. I can’t be all that upset at seeing the Cincinnati Reds in first place, seeing as how they built a team up from the ground in similar fashion to the way the Brewers did. And there’s no way I’m sad to see the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2nd place. I’m happy for the team, its fans and that city.
But to see the St. Louis Cardinals only 1.5 games out of 1st place in the NL Central, while Milwaukee is forced to ruminate on whether the Brewers will make it back to the postseason any time in the next five years, let alone this year? That’s painful. The Cardinals lost a BIG bat to the AL, as did the Brewers, but it seems only cruelly natural that the baseball gods would shine their love on St. Louis while Milwaukee stubs its toes. If the Brewers either fail to start playing actual baseball, or decide to become sellers, I will be pulling for Pittsburgh all the way. Or, rather, any team but St. Louis.
The Brewers’ front office has worked hard to attempt to make the team a winning and stable franchise, and much has been accomplished by their efforts. Instead of every other year, or every other decade, it would be nice if the Brewers could put back-to-back winning, even postseason, runs together. That may be asking too much, though.
If you ask me, the 2012 team has underachieved. They look a bit lost and overwhelmed, which is weird, because they’re a professional baseball team. There seems to be some kind of weirdness going on that’s preventing them from at least an accidental winning streak of more than four games. Is it the bullpen? The streaky hitters? Inevitable regression?
I’m not sure yet if they should sell off assets this season, but I know this: if they decide that Greinke cannot be resigned, they better get a good, quality haul back in a trade. Doug Melvin has sent out a lot of talent to finally prop up the starting pitching staff, and he needs to bring in some new blood if we can’t get it done this year. If he’s able to turn Greinke and whoever else into some solid pitching prospects and maybe a shortstop or third baseman, the Brewers may do some damage next year instead of embarking on the ‘rebuilding’ effort 3 million-plus fans dread. The window to win isn’t shrinking. The Brewers are letting it slam on their fingers.
If they must resign themselves to the notion that this year’s team isn’t going to cut it, I say let’s clean the house completely rather than just one room. It won’t be rebuilding, more reorganizing. If Greinke is to go, try to get something for starter Randy Wolf, as well. Maybe even package him with his buddy catcher George Kottaras? Maldonado is more than capable of being the backup catcher in 2013.
I wouldn’t mind seeing Nyjer Morgan moved, either. I think Morgan fills a role on a winning ball club as a scrappy speedster and part of what has been a productive outfield platoon, but he’s underachieving like the rest of the team this year. Plus, Aoki does similar things at the top of the lineup. I would like to see Logan Schafer and maybe Caleb Gindl get some playing time this year, rather than Morgan, if the Brewers are sellers. Schafer and Gindl will be cheaper and could be part of the Brewers’ future. Morgan may be winding down his time in Brew City.
What about Corey Hart? I wouldn’t enjoy seeing another part of the old core sent away, but if the team can get a nice prospect or two for Hart, the Brewers would have to consider it, especially when there are much cheaper outfield options on the horizon. Mat Gamel will presumably be back to play first base next year. The Brewers need to trim the fat on the payroll and make some difficult decisions over the course of the next month or two. Presumably, Braun, Lucroy and Gallardo are here to stay. Other than that trio, the Brewers may just need to accept that this incarnation of the Crew isn’t going to reach the pinnacle we all hoped they would. It goes beyond Greinke, and the unknown future could hold frightful things.